Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ethics


The Ethics point on the Leadership Diamond is probably one of the most difficult to define. When we hear the word "Ethics" we immediately think of the most common meaning: the process of dealing with the difference between what is right an wrong, or the more philosophical use of the term related to existing within society's rules and morals. Although these definitions are helpful, when we use the term in relation to the Leadership Diamond we have an additional layer of meaning to consider.

Ethics, when used as part of the Leadership Diamond model means being of service, doing things that honor you and others as human beings, and understanding that people matter. Ethics incorporates empathy for others and understanding that there are principles that help us decide which path leads to integrity, trustworthiness, and keeping our promises. (The Philosophic Consultant, © 2003, p. 107-108).

In the larger world, a breach of ethics can lead to punishment and jail. This lapse in ethics usually means that laws have been broken, often for personal gain at the expense of others. This is what we saw with ENRON, Broadcom, and Tyco, just to name a few. It is also hundreds of cases of backdating stock options, misuse of corporate money, and other examples of fraud.

However, in the leadership world of Peter Koestenbaum, ethics goes deeper than the legal system. At its philosophical roots ethics contains empathy and principle. “Empathy is the struggle against emotional indifference. And principle is the fight against unscrupulous behavior.” (The Philosophic Consultant, © 2003, p. 108). Dr. Koestenbaum goes on to add that ethics involves “reaching out, understanding how other feel, and caring about that.” He also says that principle is “doing what is right, not necessarily what feels good, keeping promises, integrity, and being thoroughly trustworthy."

In its Leadership Diamond context, a breach of ethics could be a behavior that would be considered illegal, but it is more likely that this ethical slip would be a personal failure of character that would make it difficult for the person creating the breach to be a strong and effective leader.

If we look at the ethics of the law as the body, the ethics of the Leadership Diamond would be the sole. The two together make the complete person, and the effective leader.

The authors of the Successful Manager’s Handbook (Previsor, © 2004, p. 586-588) suggest that in order to make ethical decisions in business, a manager or leader must give thought in advance to a number of factors that will affect the decisions made in support of the business. These factors include:
  • The values involved for the individual, company, community
  • How different constituencies view the issues before you
  • What your values and code of ethics tell you about the decision you are about to make
  • The consequences of the various choices you might make
  • Listen to and consider the concerns of others
Finally, a leader should not leave the consideration of ethics and conduct until faced with a situation requiring immediate action. Devoting time to examining personal, organizational, and community values, morals and ethics, and developing your own code of ethics that supports your vision of what you are trying to create is essential to being able to use the strength of the Leadership Diamond in to create greatness in all that you do. 

(Note - Wikipedia has an interesting article on Ethics on its web site. Although Wikipedia is not known as a reliable source of information for academic purposes, you might find this summary of the philosophical view of ethics an interesting read.)